Worldwide Biotech Use Growth Continues

A total of 1.25 million more farmers planted biotech crops in 2004 compared to 2003. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jan 13, 2005

Biotech crops experienced the second highest acreage growth on record in 2004 to reach 200 million acres. According to a report authored by Clive James, chairman and founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global area for biotech crops grew 20% in 2004 — an increase of 32.9 million acres.

The study reported that approximately 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries planted biotech crops in 2004 — 1.25 million more farmers than planted biotech crops in 18 countries in 2003. Notably, 90% of these farmers were in developing countries. In fact, for the first time, the absolute growth in biotech crop area was higher in developing countries 17.79 million acres (7.2 million hectares) than in industrial countries 15 million acres (6.1 million hectares).

"The continued rapid adoption, especially among small, resource-poor farmers, is a testament to the economic, environmental, health and social benefits realized by farmers and society in both industrial and developing countries," says Clive James. "Further, in 2004, we continued to see a broadening base of support for biotech crops as many of the countries participating in biotech crop production significantly increased biotech crop hectarage."

The number of "biotech mega-countries" (countries growing 123,500 acres/ 50,000 hectares or above biotech crops) increased from 10 to 14 in 2004 with the addition of Paraguay, Mexico, Spain and the Philippines reflecting the participation of a broader group of countries adopting biotech crops. The number of countries accounting for the majority of the global total of biotech crop area grew from five to eight and included the United States (59% of the global total), Argentina (20%), Canada (6%), Brazil (6%), China (5%), Paraguay (2%), India (1%) and South Africa (1%). In addition to Mexico, Spain and the Philippines, Uruguay, Australia and Romania complete the mega-country list.

In the United States, farmers planted 117.6 million acres (47.6 million hectares) of biotech crops, up 11% from 2003 and comprising 59% of the global total of biotech crops. Continued growth was a result of significant acreage gains in biotech corn varieties and continued increases in herbicide-tolerant soybeans, with modest growth in biotech cotton as the adoption rate approached 80% in 2004.

For the first time, developing countries accounted for more than one-third of the global biotech crop area. The research shows 35% increase in the biotech crop area in developing nations, as compared to the 13% growth in industrial countries. James says five key developing countries — China, India, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa— will significantly impact the global adoption and acceptance of biotech crops in the future.

By the end of the decade, ISAAA predicts up to 15 million farmers will grow biotech crops on 370.65 million acres (150 million hectares) in up to 30 countries.